Why this renewable energy plant isn't connected to the grid

ONE of the world's most advanced renewable energy plants is sitting idle, unable to generate electricity about six months after it was completed in North Queensland.

The $160 million hybrid wind, solar and battery storage power station was developed outside Hughenden west of Townsville, promising to power 35,000 homes.

But "weak" transmission line infrastructure connecting the site to the electricity grid, the North Queensland floods earlier this year and concern about the plant's safe integration into the network are behind delays in its connection.

In a market update, developer Windlab said the Kennedy Energy Park had been completed "for a number of months" but was experiencing delays in generator performance standards and registration as a generator.

"This is delaying energisation and commissioning," the company said.

"Negotiations are progressing with the grid operator and the project's (engineering, procurement and construction) contractor to resolve the situation as quickly as possible."

Windlab chief financial and operating officer Rob Fisher said he looked forward to seeing the power station energised "this (September) quarter".

A spokesman for the Australian Energy Market Operator said power system security was their core responsibility.

"There is high interest in renewable connections across the National Electricity Market, generally in regions remote from existing generation sources, load centres and power transmission infrastructure. These are increasingly requiring detailed technical assessments to confirm (their) ability to safety operate without adversely impacting power system stability.

"Importantly, our focus is on the stability of new generation plant and the safe integration of all new generation into the broader power transmission system."

Grid connection risk is increasing as more renewable energy projects are built in areas where transmission lines are not "strong" enough to carry large amounts of intermittent generation.

AEMO is requiring some developers to add extra equipment to strengthen the grid and can also restrict the amount of energy a project operator can send into the grid.

Windlab has been required to add equipment including a synchronous condenser to provide power at short notice to stabilise the grid when voltage or frequency deviates from safe levels.

Windlab has also struck delays over another North Queensland wind farm project at Lakeland. Financiers Infrared Capital Partners withdrew from that project last year, citing an inability to price risks associated with grid connection.

Windlab says lack of energy policy and co-ordination is creating technical, market and investor uncertainty, which flows through to an uncertain operating environment.

New connection standards were introduced last year requiring higher technical performance from renewable plants.

"The challenging regulatory environment has created additional uncertainty around grid connection capacity in North Queensland," Windlab said in its 2018 annual report.

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